Brent Hills has named his eighteen player squad for this July's Nordic Cup in Norway.
Exactly a week after the denouement of the 2006 World Cup Final in Berlin, some of England’s most talented female footballers will kick-start the new season in Norway.
The Nordic Cup brings together eight of the top nations in the women’s game, with four matches in seven days providing invaluable experience of tournament football.
Each country are allowed to select a maximum of five ‘over-age’ players who must be no older than 24, and Brent Hills’ squad features eight players who finished third last year in Sweden, after a penalty-shoot out victory over Germany.
“We’ll be going to Norway striving to win” Brent told TheFA.com. “The closer players get to the senior squad, the more important it is to develop a winning mentality, but the tournament is also crucial in the learning curve of players, to learn how to physically and mentally prepare themselves for a tournament like a European Championship or World Cup.”
England will open the tournament against Finland, before facing Sweden and Germany, whilst the second group contains Denmark, Iceland, Norway and the USA.
“I’ll be looking to assess during the four games whether the players realise their talent” Brent continued. “I had a real headache when I sat down to choose the eighteen players this year, as the pool of talent is getting deeper and deeper.
“There are some very talented players on standby who are now too old for the U19s, and when I look at every position, I see very good players.”
The obvious outcome for a player who excels in Norway would be elevation to the senior squad, although Siobhan Chamberlain, Laura Bassett, Alex Scott, Anita Asante, Lianne Sanderson and Kelly McDougall have already made their senior bows, whilst players like Katie Holtham and Jill Scott have featured in senior squads in the last twelve months.
“The door is never closed, and what Hope, myself and Mo Marley are trying to do is create a competitive environment” said Brent.
“Two years ago Alex Scott played in all four games at the Nordic Cup, and I played her in three different positions. Two months later she made her senior debut in Holland and was tremendous, and from that moment [until she got injured last season] she hasn’t looked back.
“Caroline Seger of Sweden used this tournament as a springboard to move into their senior set-up, whilst three of the current USA senior squad – the University of North Carolina trio of Lori Chalupny, Heather O’Reilly and Lindsay Tarpley – also broke through after impressing at the Nordic Cup last year.”
By blending a mixture of experience with “youthful enthusiasm”, Brent will be looking for the side to continue their form of the last twelve months.
For players like Siobhan Chamberlain and Laura Bassett, the tournament provides differing opportunities with the remaining two World Cup qualifiers against Holland and France to come.
“Siobhan’s club season with Bristol Academy finished as long ago as March” said Brent, “so it is important for her personally to get some match time under her belt, whilst for Laura, her performance in last year’s tournament propelled her very much into the thinking for the Seniors.”
The Birmingham City captain has been playing for New York Magic this summer, but has been given a strict training and recovery programme to ensure she doesn’t suffer from burn-out.
“With the Women’s World Cup in September 2007, if England qualify, there couldn’t be any greater motivation for these players” added Brent.
“History has proven that for players at this age group, now is the time when they can play themselves into contention. Eniola, Alex and Karen Carney did this for Euro 2005, and in another year’s time, three more of this squad could well have made the step-up too.
“As a Coach, these are some of the messages you can tell the players; it’s up to them to grasp the opportunities.”
Siobhan Chamberlain (Bristol Academy), Nicola Hobbs (Lincoln City), Rachael Axon (AFC Wimbledon), Laura Bassett (Birmingham City), Michelle Hickmott (Charlton Athletic), Katie Holtham (Bristol Academy), Fern Whelan (Everton), Anita Asante (Arsenal), Kelly McDougall (Everton), Lianne Sanderson (Arsenal), Alex Scott (Arsenal), Danielle Bird (Birmingham City), Gemma Davison (Arsenal), Michelle Evans (Everton), Steph Houghton (Sunderland), Jill Scott (Sunderland), Sarah Snare (Charlton Athletic), Jodie Taylor (Oregan State Uni, USA)
U21 Nordic Cup for Women